Two town boards – Newstead and West Seneca – addressed concerns Monday night about newly opened group homes where registered sex offenders are among the residents.
In West Seneca, town officials said Monday night at least seven convicted sex offenders who had been living in the Monroe Developmental Center in suburban Rochester have turned up in group homes in a West Seneca neighborhood.
“It is extremely concerning to me,” Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said at Monday’s West Seneca Town Board meeting.
“The predators are from Monroe County and they brought them here; they did it at night,” said Meegan, who noted that she’s been in contact with State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, about the lack of notification to public officials and the fact the men are being housed in unsecured facilities.
“I immediately reached out to the senator and he agrees 100 percent,” Meegan said.
According to public records, the men are living at two addresses on Leydecker Road, on the former site of the West Seneca Developmental Center, which closed in 2011.
Classified as moderate- or high-risk offenders, four of the men were convicted of sexual crimes involving children younger than 10 years old. Six were convicted of crimes in Niagara, Erie or Chautauqua counties; the seventh was convicted in Monroe County.
The men were placed in the homes after the state closed the Monroe facility at the end of December, as part of a statewide effort to save money and de-institutionalize those with severe developmental disabilities.
In Newstead, a large crowd of residents living near two homes run by People Inc. attended the town board meeting.
Mark Outten, who lives across from the home on Rapids Road, asked board members why they never gave the public notice of the homes when People Inc. first let the board know that they were looking at two sites in Newstead in May 2013.
Supervisor David Cummings apologized and took responsibility for the board not notifying the public, but said that they did not have the information they have now.
“We went with the information we had at that point in time,” he said. “We went with the mentality of what we had dealt with in the past and shame on us for that. We can’t change the past, but we can move forward and make as many corrections to what’s there as we can legally going forward.”
Councilwoman Marybeth Whiting, who serves with Councilman Justin Rooney on the committee set up to look into the two recently opened group homes, said it was important to deal with reality when trying to figure out a solution to the issues surrounding the homes.
“We really, really want to deal with facts,” she said. “Not what you’ve heard, and not what you’re thinking, but facts…Really try to focus on facts.”
The committee was set to meet with officials from People Inc. and the state on Wednesday.
Rhonda I. Frederick, chief operating officer of People Inc. and Kevin Penberthy, a deputy director from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, were scheduled to meet with the group at 6 p.m. at Newstead Town Hall.
A meeting with the community is planned at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 with Frederick and a director from the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. That meeting is slated to be held in the new Cultural Center, located in the basement of the Newstead Public Library, 33 Main St. in the Village of Akron.
The committee met Monday night before the Town Board meeting, and developed a list of questions for Frederick and Penberthy, said Newstead resident Kevin Borth, who is one of six residents serving on the committee.
“We’re trying to figure out who’s responsible for what,” he said. “Who’s responsible for the sex offender in there? Who does oversight?”
The committee is trying to get as much information as possible from the people who make decisions regarding the group homes on Rapids Road and Buckwheat Road, Borth said.
“Knowledge is power on this,” he said.